From about age 11, to age 13, I kept a secret notebook. NO ONE was allowed to look inside unless I said they could. I only recall granting viewing permission to my younger sister and my best friend. In my notebook, I was constantly sketching characters and scenarios and writing out plots for stories. I began writing a few but didn’t finish a single one. As I’ve gotten older and read more about how authors write books, I realize that what I was doing in keeping a notebook was the same thing authors do when they prepare to write a book.
The University of Minnesota Children’s Literature Research Collections includes the personal working papers of many, many authors. A visit to this library allows you the rare chance to basically look at an author’s “secret notebook” and see the steps involved in writing a book. At the University of Minnesota
Anderson Library, I really enjoyed reading Kate DiCamillo’s letters to and from her editor and the drafts and rewrites of her bestselling book Because of Winn-Dixie. When I looked over Wanda Ga’g’s papers, I was able to hold her hand-drawn doodles and sketches in my hands. I also got to read letters she wrote to her sister Flavia and found out that “Flops” was her nickname for her. This was fun because there’s someone in my family whose nickname is Flops.
Go to https://www.lib.umn.edu/circ/, click on the link to the Kerlan Collection on the left, and then go to the bottom of the page and click on the Kerlan Collection Finding Aids in order to scroll through a list of authors to see which authors’ papers are housed at the University of Minnesota. The library is open to the public but you have to plan your visit in advance by contacting the library and requesting which author’s papers you would like to view. You would also need to register as a researcher at the time of your visit.
You don’t have to be an adult to do all this. If you’re a kid, they will most likely ask you to bring a parent or guardian into the research area with you, though. You’ll also be given a pair of white cotton gloves to wear while you handle these one-of-a-kind, historical papers. And imagine being able to return to your school and legitimately tell your teacher and friends that you’ve done research at a university library.
P.S. Younger siblings or friends who aren’t quite ready to engage in research may enjoy the children’s book exhibits on the first floor of Anderson Library. For those who need an outdoor break, there’s a beautiful view of the Mississippi River a short walk from the building. Something for everyone! Good times!
This is the second stop on Minnesota Trail Part One!
Rebecca Blake Beech